Sad news of death of Westcare founder and National Task Force creator Dr Richard Sykes

September 21, 2021

Dr Richard Sykes, founder of the Bristol-based M.E. charity Westcare, has died at the age of 89.

He set up a National Task Force on the illness chaired by the virologist Dr David Tyrell. Their report, published in 1994, was among the first to take this illness seriously with its conclusions feeding into the Chief Medical Officer’s report published eight years later.

The news of Dr Sykes’ death was broken last Friday by his friend Patrick Hayes on the Bristol ME Support Group’s Facebook.

Mr Hayes wrote: “In 1987, together with Jenny Wilson and the late Carol Stagg, he started up the Bristol ME Group as a branch of the ME Association.

“He was very keen to provide services to help those with the illness and the next year he founded Westcare, which provided a clinic, counselling services and later on residential courses.”

The Task Force included notables like Professor Derek Pheby, Dr William Weir, Professor Ted Dinan and a Bristol GP, Dr Clare Fleming.

Mr Hayes added: “Richard was a keen climber and together with his friend Mike Banks climbed the famous sea stack, The Old Man of Hoy, to raise funds for Westcare and to enable Banks to claim the title as the oldest person to make the formidable ascent.

“Richard put his heart and soul into helping people with ME. The community has lost a loyal and true champion.”

In 2004, Westcare was absorbed by Action for ME after the two charities announced a merger.

“This is very sad news. I first met Richard many years ago when he was setting up Westcare.

“The last time I met Richard was at a CMRC conference in Bristol a few years ago where, despite his advancing age, he was still taking an active interest in all the new research.

“Richard will always be remembered for his kind and compassionate nature and his dedication to helping people with ME/CFS.”

MEA medical adviser Dr Charles Shepherd.

The winter issue of our ME Essential magazine will carry a more detailed obituary.

This photo – by Patrick Hayes – was taken at a reception to launch the National Task Force Report. It shows Dr Sykes (on the left), with former MEA chairman the late John Brodrick and a very young Dr Charles Shepherd.

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